How to Avoid the 5 Worst Interior Design Mistakes
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How to Avoid the 5 Worst Interior Design Mistakes

Professionals say young people setting up their own digs tend to make similar decorating errors.

By Rachel Wolfe
Fri, Aug 6, 2021 10:56amGrey Clock 4 min

AFTER 16 MONTHS cooped up with roommates or parents, young (and not-so-young) people have had enough. Those who can afford it are increasingly moving into their own first places when their leases end this summer and autumn, said a spokesman for real-estate rental site StreetEasy. Searches that specified studio apartments are up 69% year-over-year.

When it comes to decorating these solo nests, however, designers say first timers’ greenness leads to errors: from cramming oafish sofas through doors they failed to measure to living sans civilities like curtains and rugs. As New York City designer Phillip Thomas said, “Just because it’s your first apartment doesn’t mean it can’t have a sense of sophistication.”

Here, design pros highlight the five flubs that novice renters most frequently make on their way to, as millennials call it, “adulting.” Plus: chic alternatives.

1. The Unconquered Divide

Generations of squished people have passed down various methods to separate a studio apartment into living and sleeping spaces: curtains, free-standing screens, bookshelves, even a delineating row of jungle-y plants. They all can make a space feel smaller, said Francesca Bucci, founder of BG Studio in Manhattan. Mr. Thomas noted that such barriers frequently cut off window light, creating a murky cave. “There is nothing more awful than living in a space without light,” he said.

Instead: Rather than placing your bed’s headboard against a wall, Ms. Bucci directed, “float” the bed, with the foot facing a window and leaving at least two feet of circulation at the bottom. A medium-height headboard will act as a divider without depriving the rest of the studio of natural light. Arrange your seating area on the other side of it, backing your couch against it. This way you won’t subject guests to your rumpled pillows or that stuffed animal from which you haven’t managed to brutally sever ties just yet.

2. Helter-Skelter Inheritances

Beware a hodgepodge of hand-me-down furniture relatives have cast off. Manasquan, N.J., designer Christina Kim warned that, “the scale of such furniture is usually off, and a mix of too many styles can feel chaotic.”

Instead: “Do not feel obligated to accept every piece that comes your way,” said Mr. Thomas. If a donation doesn’t work with your décor, politely decline it or modify the offering so it suits your style. In his first rental, in Washington, D.C., Mr. Thomas draped quilts and tossed cut-velvet pillows to align random sofas with his aesthetic.

3. Place-Holder Art

Worried about forfeiting security deposits, renters often settle for a few posters hung with adhesive strips, complained New York City designer Young Huh. Even with more ambitious prints or paintings, noted fellow Manhattan designer Starrett Ringbom, newbies tend to hang them too high, mounted in cheap plastic frames.

Instead: Invest in some spackle. “Patching and painting at the end of the lease—even if only a year—is a small price to pay for an inviting and collected home,” Ms. Huh said. Hang art at eye level for comfortable viewing, advised Ms. Ringdom, who also contends that having art professionally framed is a worthwhile investment. “A silver-leaf frame instantly elevates a poster from your last museum visit into art worthy of the living room wall,” she said.

4. Single-Source Sameness

“It’s so exciting getting your first place, and often you’ll shop for everything at once from the same big-box store,” said Lauren Wall, co-founder of Principle Faucets, in Santa Cruz, Calif. But can a single retailer really represent your many-faceted personality?

Instead: “Invest some time in searching for killer, high-quality resale pieces to mix with budget-friendly new items,” Ms. Wall suggested. Your space will have “more intention and character” than if you buy everything at once. Mr. Thomas recommended searching estate sales and online auctions. And don’t just fixate on how a particular piece looks in the context of a catalog photo: Catalina Echavarria, co-founder of Miami furniture and interior design firm CEU Studio, suggested you shop in person, if possible, and think about how you’ll use the item. “If I sit on a couch, I want to feel hugged and nurtured…if I step on a rug, I want to love it barefoot and feel its texture,” she said.

5. Casting a Bad Light

If you think you’re all set with your landlord’s flush-mounted ceiling lights (aka “boob lights,” so christened because they often take the form of hemispheres of milky glass with nipple-like finials), think again. “Overhead lighting is unflattering and ineffective for tasks such as reading,” said Washington, D.C., designer Annie Elliott, who pointed out that these fixtures often use bulbs that cast white walls in eerie, blue-ish, hospital-like glows.

Instead: Buy a cheerful table lamp to add color, style and, of course, light, said Ms. Elliott. “It will elevate the entire room.” Warm, yellow-toned lightbulbs will help create a homey feeling. Swap out your landlord’s ceiling bulbs and store them so you can replace them when you move out.

ODD SQUAD

Pros recall weird first-time decorating moves

“Beach chairs as lounge chairs. Keep the outdoor furniture outside!” — Marc Bacher, founder, Stuga, Austin, Texas

“Beer cans stacked to create a base and a piece of glass on top. Creative way to recycle but not a good look when you are trying to look grown-up. I’ve also seen bed sheets nailed to the window frame as curtains.” — Amanda Thompson designer, New York City

“A shelf of glass bottles filled with highlighter-infused water to display with black lights. Actually, just say no to black lights to begin with.” — Lauren Wall, co-founder, Principle Faucets, Santa Cruz, Calif.

“A contractor’s work light, with the plastic cage, draped over a bookcase.” — Annie Elliot, interior designer, Washington, D.C.

“Furniture fashioned out of cinder blocks. It was ominous.” — Christina Kim, interior designer, Manasquan, N.J.

 

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: August 5, 2021



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Expert tips for prospective buyers looking to purchase a home in 2024.

By Josh Bozin
Fri, Apr 12, 2024 3 min

For aspiring homeowners, be it a first-time buyer, downsizer, or investor, picturing your idea of homeownership bliss is the easy part. But before deliberating on furniture choices or scouting for that perfect neighbourhood coffee, understanding your purchasing power stands out as the most important step in ensuring your success in homeownership.

And with the Australian property market gaining momentum in 2024, there’s never been a better time to come to grips with your financial options.

In 2023, amid the changing financial landscape that saw rising interest rates and the cost of living skyrocket, among other factors, the total amount borrowed for property purchases across Australia was estimated at $300.9 billion, a 12.7 percent decrease from the previous year, according to PEXA’s latest Mortgage Insights Report.

Each mainland state also experienced a decline in new lending, according to the report, with Victoria and New South Wales seeing the biggest drops to $84.1 billion and $109.5 billion, respectively.

While this trend reflects the repercussions of such financial hardships on the everyday Australian, John Morello, director and auctioneer at Jellis Craig, said we’re seeing renewed confidence in the property market during the first quarter of 2024, particularly in Melbourne.

“Auction clearance rates have started the year strongly and consumer sentiment is rising. This lift is driven by cooling inflation and an improved outlook on interest rates. At Jellis Craig, as with the rest of the market, we are experiencing an increase in volume of property compared to the same period in March last year (up 28% in 2024),” Mr Morello said.

“Melbourne’s property market, in particular, is showing its ongoing evolution and resilience.”

PEXA’s report revealed that, while borrowing saw a decrease in 2023 in Australia, Australians still invested $613.0 billion in property purchases in 2023. In 2024, purchasing confidence is only going up, as prospective first home buyers, seasoned downsizers, and savvy investors look to capitalise on a flood of new property hitting the market, coupled with the lowering of interest rates across the board.

“With more certainty in the economic outlook, along with an increase in volume of property available, we are seeing these factors translate to early signs of a boost in confidence in both buyers and sellers,” said Mr Morello.

“Further encouraging data shows that whilst there is more property available to purchase, more people are inspecting property, again indicating that demand has increased broadly across our marketplace.”

If you’re in the market for a new property, the biggest question you must ask yourself is how much house can I afford?

A great starting place is to speak with your mortgage broker or financial professional, who can guide you on your lending options. This is critical, as you need to know what your future repayment options might look like, and ultimately, what you will typically be able to afford.

A useful tool for judging whether you can afford a specific property is to factor in the 28/36 rule — a rough guide that suggests you should not spend more than 28 percent of your gross monthly income on housing, and no more than 36 percent on all debts. Another useful tool is the idea of a debt-to-income ratio (DTI); a formula whereby an individual can divide all of their monthly debt payments by gross monthly income to arrive at a number that one can measure as a way of managing monthly mortgage payments.

Mr Morello emphasised the need to understand affordability and what’s feasible for each individual when looking to make a purchase, no matter the budget, on a property in 2024.

“It’s pivotal to work out what you can afford. Get your finances in order. Consider all associated costs with buying, and research what concessions and grants are available,” said Mr Morello.

“It’s easy for individuals to begin the process today. Start actively searching potential properties on a weekly basis, and research areas you are interested in. Check weekly sales results, attend inspections and auctions, to get a feel for the process. Just remember, it’s important to be really comfortable in understanding your living expenses, and what the ongoing expenses will be once you have bought a property.

“For example, mortgage repayments, council rates, water, power, owners corp fees, insurances, maintenance costs; if you are buying as an investment, the Land Tax payable on that property which is an ongoing tax. There’s many factors to consider.”

To see what’s possible for your specific circumstances, visit our Finance Portal for specific tools, guides and tips—as well as our own mortgage calculator—to assist you on your property journey.

 

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